Nneka, ‘Soul Is Heavy’

‘Soul Is Heavy’

The Nigerian born singer-songwriter’s third US release is another powerful blend of reggae, soul, hip-hop, and world beat. Very few artists could immerse themselves in various genres and convince with such originality, but Nneka does so effortlessly. “Soul Is Heavy’’ is infused with as much tenderness as it is with defiance and probing questions about the ways of the world. On “J,’’ she sings, “Everything isn’t what it seems to be’’ and grapples with the complexities and tensions of love, politics, and spirituality. The title track is a powerful survey of the Nigerian struggle that mixes despair and hope, sung with pleading urgency. On the insistent, “God Knows Why,’’ with guest Black Thought, she looks at the polarities of existence and the balancing act of life; while we may see only darkness at times, belief in the light can help us transcend the pain. Soulful ballads such as “Stay’’ or the acoustic “Do You Love Me Now’’ counter the more emphatic tracks and leave just as strong an impression. Throughout, Nneka’s singing and rapping are inspired and deeply felt. (Out today)